Freshman aspires to enter priesthood after high school

By Mariella Marino — A doctor, a lawyer or someone famous is what most students aspire to be in life, but for freshman Savvas Bournelis, this is not the case. Bournelis’ goal in life after high school is to pursue his dream since the age of seven of being a Greek Orthodox priest.

“I remember getting ready for a soccer game and looking for my soccer uniform when I came across these clothes that I knew nothing about. I took them out and later found out that they were my father’s vestments (priest’s attire),” Bournelis said. “I always would want to wear them even though they were too big for me. Soon someone had made me my own set that was my size to dress up in.”

Bournelis’ father is not an active priest in the Greek Orthodox community but he was in the past. Because of this, their family is still actively involved in the church and attends services every Sunday.

“We alternate churches every week,” Bournelis said. “One week we will attend services at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and the next week we will go to services at St. Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church. There is no difference in their way of practicing our religion.”

Bournelis serves as an altar boy in both churches. An altar boy assists the priest with church services and chants the hymns, song like prayers, with him. This job helps him to get a feel for what some of the priest’s duties are. Along with being an altar boy, Bournelis participates in GOYA and various forms of Greek dancing. GOYA, “Greek Orthodox Youth of America,” is like a typical youth group. GOYA puts on dances and also has a basketball team that Bournelis plays for.

“I enjoy being able to be an altar boy, I get behind the scenes action to see what I’ll be doing one day,” Bournelis said.

Because of the indecisiveness of many teenagers thinking about their careers, one would generally say that this “phase” for Bournelis will subside eventually and he will go onto other things. But the compassion that is present for Bournelis and his dream is unique from many others.

“I will be honest, there have been times in the past couple years where I have thought that maybe a lawyer or a real estate agent should be my career,” Bournelis said. “But then I put things into perspective, and I thought to myself, ‘What will always be there for you, Money or God? I chose God.”

There are benefits of being a Greek Orthodox priest that were also deal breakers for Savvas and his decision. Unlike Catholic priests, Greek Orthodox priests are allowed to get married. They must be married before they are ordained into the church as a practicing priest. Also, the Greek Orthodox priests are looked upon as helpers and aids to those who need spiritual healing and advice.

“I like the fact that priests in my faith can be married. I feel that it gives them the first hand knowledge of knowing what a family is like. Most of the problems that priests are faced to solve for people are ones that happen within the family,” Bournelis said. “When you have a family of your own, it’s easier to relate to other people’s issues and to help them.”

Along to support Bournelis is his mother Marsha Bournelis who backs her son up completely. She also likes the marital aspect in their faith towards priests.

A lot goes into being a priest, whether it is spiritually, emotionally, or mentally, the mind has to be in the right frame to perform the job correctly. Traits of leadership and responsibility play a huge role into being a priest. Bournelis considers himself to show many forms of these characteristics throughout his daily life.

“I help my friends out with problems. I’ve been told that I’m a good listener and I usually give the best advice that I can,” Bournelis said. “I take an enjoyment and I have a love for my faith. I’m glad that a lot of people support my decision.”

Step by step, Savvas is turning his aspirations into reality and his dreams into goals. Despite the temptation for many careers, God will always be his number one factor in his life. Therefore, pursuing his dream is the only thing and nothing will get in the way of that.

[Updated Aug. 7, 2017: This article has been reformatted for consistency.]